Growers typically convert to using grafted plants (e.g., tomato, watermelon) primarily because they can be much more productive when specific soilborne diseases are present (and the correct rootstock is used). In addition, however, grafted plants are often more vigorous than ungrafted ones of the same scion (fruiting variety). Grafted plants may also use water, fertilizer, and other inputs more efficiently. Therefore, it is necessary to optimize cultural and fertility practices for grafted plant-based production. Two experiments will be completed in this 1+ acre parcel in 2020. One experiment tests alternative fertilizer rates and the second experiment tests in-row spacings (plant populations/acre). All grafted plants are supplied by Tri-Hishtil in Mills River, NC.
Tri-Hishtil (http://www.trihishtil.com/) is one among a constantly-lengthening list of commercial grafted plant suppliers. Others include Banner Greenhouses (https://www.bannergreenhouses.com/), Grafted Growers (https://graftedgrowers.com/), and Re-Divined (https://redivined.weebly.com/) in the eastern U.S. and others based in the west. Local suppliers are also operating in Ohio and some farmers are preparing their own grafted plants. Commercial suppliers continue to ramp-up their capacity to meet the needs of vegetable growers, regardless of the size, location, or type of their operation (field and/or high tunnel; conventional and/or organic). Also, grafted plant costs are increasingly competitive. Overall, access to grafted plants is strong and increasing and no longer a reason for being unable to test the performance of grafted plants on your farm. The Vegetable Production Systems Lab at OARDC can also assist, if needed; we teach people how to graft and, in 2021, we hope to resume preparing small numbers of plants by request.
One empty and three filled cells of a 128-cell tray holding grafted watermelon plants prepared by Tri-Hishtil. Note roots are visible on the surface as healthy white ‘threads’ with smaller root hairs near the tip, creating a bottle-brush appearance. Slotted cells (as shown at the bottom-left) contribute to this root condition and morphology.
Hand-grafted watermelon plants from Tri-Hishtil in Mills River, NC.
Plant at left is Jade Star and plant at right is Fascination, both grafted to Carnivor rootstock.
Clear and green clips show the location of the graft union and supports (white sticks) will be removed at planting (scheduled for 6/8/20).
Root systems are well-developed, stems are sturdy, and the plants pull easily. Roots are not spiraling, partly due to the larger size and special shape of the cells.
Clips can be removed at planting or allowed to be forced off naturally by stem growth.
Contact Matt Kleinhenz (330.263.3810; email@example.com) and see updates at this blog for more information.